A MAN who pretended to  be a teenage girl to abuse young boys has been jailed.

Following an investigation by Greater Manchester Police's Child Protection Investigation Unit, officers discovered that Ben Thompson had engaged dozens of teenage boys in sexualised conversations by pretending to be a young girl called Erin, using the alias ‘Erinstewart788’.

Thompson adopted the profile of a young female of similar age to whom he was communicating with, and he would spend time building rapport with the victims before demanding sexually explicit images and videos.

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In June 2020, a report of online grooming was made to police by the parents of an eleven-year-old boy and police were able to identify who was responsible for the fake account.

This led police to Thompson's address in Lostock, Bolton, with police executing a warrant at his home address on November 12, 2020.

The 23-year-old's mobile devices were seized more than two million images on his devices, with over one thousand indecent images and videos he had extorted from children.

Enquiries uncovered thousands of sexualised messages by Thompson with underage boys, not just in Greater Manchester, but across the South West and North East of England.

If they didn’t comply, he would often intimidate them, saying ‘block me and you’ll regret it’ or by threatening to post their pictures online if they didn’t do what he asked.

Despite giving no comment interviews, officers secured charges against Thompson and he later pleaded guilty to 28 counts of inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and sexual communications with a child under 13, as well as three charges of possessing indecent images.

At a sentencing hearing at Bolton Crown Court, the 23-year-old was sentenced to four years in jail and put on the sex offenders register for life.

Detective Sergeant Matt Quayle from Bolton’s Child Protection Investigation Unit said: “I would like to thank our victims and survivors who showed immense courage by coming forward to police and providing vital evidence to secure Thompson’s conviction.

“Thompson is a calculated and depraved individual who coerced teenage boys into sexual behaviour for his own perverse sexual gratification. When they didn’t comply, he sent them vile threats which we know had a huge impact on the young victims and their mental health.

“We know how uncomfortable it can be to make reports of this nature, but I would urge anyone who has been affected by this case or suspects their child may have been targeted by this social media account, please come forward and report this to us.

“You are not alone, you are not to blame, and we have specially trained officers and partners who will support you.”